Maghrol (Anand): The lack of development in Maghrol village, which Union information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani adopted in 2015, is highlighted on two levels. Firstly, despite Rs7 crore being allocated to the village under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), its water, cleanliness, skill development and employment requirements remain unfulfilled. And second, the facilities that do exist are divided on caste lines, with the Dalits of Maghrol required to use a separate source for water and an alternate cemetery ground.

Rs7 crore was approved for 41 projects, including development of water facilities, a school, a skill development centre, a cremation ground, roads and a panchayat building, but there have been accusations of government guidelines being flouted and payments made without proper work being done.

In May last year, Irani declared Maghrol, in Gujarat’s Anand district, a “model village” under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) and inaugurated Rs15 crore worth of facilities including Wi-Fi connectivity and a skill development centre. Today, neither is functional.

Accusations of corruption

In July, Amit Chavda, the Congress member of the Gujarat legislative assembly (MLA) from Anklav constituency, under which Maghrol falls, submitted an item of public interest litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat high court in July alleging misuse of the MPLADS funds. The court then sought a response from the Gujarat government.

“I came to know about the CAG’s (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) report on its supervision of the development works in Maghrol and other villages. The CAG reported embezzlement of funds during the years 2014-15 and 2015-16,” said Chavda, who was re-elected in the just-concluded state assembly polls. “Smriti Irani has been elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, so she has to take responsibility. Instead of ensuring development, she has approved grants in violation of government rules. And there is corruption in the development works that she has approved.”

Irani was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat in August 2011, but the constituency in which Maghrol falls has been voting for the Congress. The majority of the 2,388 votes the village cast in the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections were for the opposition party.

‘Where is the development?’

Vignatriben Patel, a member of the Anand district panchayat from the Congress party, said most of the funds under the MPLADS were given to the Sharda Majoor Kamdar Sahkari Mandali in violation of the rules and promoting corruption.

“Where is Smritiben’s development? On the roads where there is dust everywhere? In the cemetery, where the names of the donors and the funds under MPLADS are written? In the toilets that are not in use?” Patel said. “Only one cemetery is needed for the entire community, but she has given separate funds to develop two.”

The skill development centre has been closed since it was built a year ago, said Dilip, a student. “There is no activity going on at the skill centre. The Wi-Fi connection is controlled by a few, select people,” he said.

Water woes

A woman sitting beside the lake in Maghrol said the village’s water problems have been going on for years because there are no proper facilities. “The water supply stopped seven days ago after there was a technical fault in the motor of the overhead tank,” she said.

The woman, a member of the Chunara community who did not want to be named, was openly scornful of the Dalit residents of Maghol and said the women of the Vankar community have to fill water from a separate well.

This division was visible, as women were seen filling pots with water at two different places.

“We have been facing water issues since our birth… We don’t go to their well as they call us Dhedh, and they are Patels and Thakors,” said Ilaben Chauhan, a member of the Vankar community. The term ‘Dhedh’ is use in a derogatory manner for members of her community.

“They don’t come here to take water. In case they come here, we give them the water as they can’t touch our well. The Vankars have a separate well, and no one from our community goes there to fill water,” said Bhikiben, who belongs to the Thakor community.

Hitesh Chavda tweets at @HiteshChavdaNad. Did you like this story? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter.